Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Salt of the Earth

For anyone and everyone who suffered the murder of one (or more than one) who you loved and who loved you on this very date - and on this very day of the week - eleven years ago, I cannot for a moment pretend to know what it is you have endured.  Not only have I not walked a mile in your shoes, I was never even asked to take a pair of them off of the shelf in the store and try them on for size.  You have my most sincere sympathy.  You had it then.  You have it now.  You shall have it always. 

Having not sustained a direct loss, I use this space today to honor three souls lost on September 11, 2001 with whom I have/had an indirect connection either through someone I know, a place where I went to school or the town in which I live.  Not only is this not much - it is nowhere close to enough.  It never shall be.  I would not pretend to besmirch the memory of any of these three individuals by pretending for just one moment that it was anything more than it is:  one man's way of trying to process an event that eleven years after it happened still seems utterly incomprehensible to me. 

An event that left an imprint upon me similar to that it left on all of us who did not mourn a loved one but who grieved for all who were killed that day.  An event that eleven years later still causes me to gaze skyward - regardless of where I am - when I hear a jet engine overhead.  An involuntary reflex caused by what I know not given that eleven years ago this morning while the horrible events of the day were breaking loose I was in the Bergen County Justice Center in Hackensack, New Jersey from which vantage point I neither heard nor saw a single plane.   

Antoinette Duger is a woman who I never met.  Yet through my friendship with her cousin Gerard Gonnella I feel as if I have been introduced to her.  Several months ago, I wrote about Antoinette in this space.    When she was killed on the 11th of September 2001 she was but forty-four years old.  At the time of her death she worked for Wachovia, which several years earlier had purchased First Union.  Antoinette had spent her entire professional life - starting at age 18 - working for First Union/Wachovia.  Her office was on the 47th floor of One World Trade Center.  For a kid who grew up in Newark and who graduated from Barringer High School, she had a view from her office that reinforced the fact that hard work and earnestness pay off.  She had made it. 

And because a life lived only in the work-a-day world is not as much a life as it is an existence, Antoinette had worked hard to secure happiness in personal life.  She was married to Raymond and the two of them doted on their only child Megan.  She was not only a woman with a plan, she was a Mom with a dream.  It was her dream that she and Raymond move to a place where the local school district would ensure Megan the best possible education.  Honoring the wish of his wife in the best possible way, Raymond made it happen.  Raymond and Megan moved out to Morris County - to Parsippany Township - where Megan Duger was a member of the Parsippany High School Class of 2011.    

Eleven years after her death, on the occasions that I have had to discuss her with Gerard, he almost immediately talks of her generous spirit, her selflessness, her grace.  A woman who was the type of person that all of us aspire to be.  On a tribute posted on CNN.com her niece Rose Marie DiMatteo said it better than I ever could:  She was a wonderful sister, mother and aunt. She always placed her family and friends before herself, and she leaves behind the greatest legacy one could leave behind. Our mission is to carry on her memory and to be as kind as she was to all she knew.

Thomas Glasser grew up attending what was then the Wardlaw Country Day School.  Secondary school education in suburban New Jersey is as subject to change as anything else is - and it was in the mid-1970's too.  When he graduated from high school in 1978, he did so from the Wardlaw-Hartridge School.  I knew of Tom Glasser prior to setting foot on the Plainfield Avenue campus as a student for the first time in W-H Year #2 courtesy of my father.  Dad had been the Associate Head of the Lower School at Wardlaw and when the two schools merged he retained that same title at W-H.  Thus, I learned of Tom Glasser's exploits on the track and field team and on the cross-country team from listening to Dad speak of him. 

Last year, on the tenth anniversary of September 11,  I wrote about Tom Glasser in this space.  He is to my knowledge the only graduate of Wardlaw-Hartridge to be killed on September 11.  At the time of his death, he was a partner with Sandler O'Neill.   He was survived by his wife Meg, his two young sons (ages four and two respectively) and his parents.  His father, Dr. Gerald Glasser has honored the memory and the life of his son in a number of ways, including helping form the Imagine Center in Westfield.  An initial grant for startup funding for Imagine was provided through the Thomas Glasser Foundation.  Similarly, his wife Meg and his two boys Dylan and Luke have done amazing things in turning their tragedy into a source of help and assistance for others.  In August of 2011, shortly before the tenth anniversary of the attacks they were at Overlook Hospital to help christen something that they had helped create in his honor:  The Thomas Glasser Caregivers Center.    

He was a man who derived much enjoyment from doing good things for others including those who he did not know.  The extent to which his family has continued to keep up those good works and has continued to live their lives in a full and rewarding manner is a credit not only to the man he was but also to the parents who raised him, the remarkable woman he married and the two extraordinary sons he fathered.  The phrase "Pay It Forward" has been seemingly reduced to a punchline over the years.  The Glassers restore its substance.  Every day. 

Margaret and I were married approximately nineteen and one-half years ago.  I have lived with my wife in her hometown of Middlesex Boro since that time.  When I first moved to Middlesex almost twenty years ago, I knew perhaps two dozen people.  In the twenty years since that circle has expanded little if at all.  Thus at no time between the time I first moved into town and the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 did I have the pleasure or privilege of getting to know Thomas Gorman.   Tom Gorman was a police officer for the PAPD and a member of its Emergency Services Unit.  On the morning of September 11, 2001 he responded to the World Trade Center to help those there get home to their loved ones.  In doing so, he was killed.  Tom Gorman was forty-one years of age.

Among the people to whose assistance Tom Gorman had rushed that morning was his younger brother John.  In September 2001 John Morgan was working for Bank of America in BOA's offices on the 81st floor of the North Tower.  He and the co-workers he was with made it out of the North Tower safely. 

When he was not at work, Tom Gorman was apt to be found coaching a baseball or basketball team that one of his children played on, rooting hard for his beloved Big Blue or cooking.  He was survived by his wife Barbara and the couple's three children Laura, Patrick and Bridget.  In a tribute published in Newsday in the autumn of 2001 Barbara provided a beautiful eulogy for him:   He was just a very genuine person.  He told you what he thought, what he felt. But he would do whatever he could for you, and do his best. He was a man who worked hard but also knew how to enjoy life.  Would we not all want to be described in such magnificent, glowing terms? 

In what are most assuredly developments that would bring a smile to his face, life has gone on in the Gorman family in the eleven years since Tom Gorman was killed in the line of duty.  His oldest daughter Laura - in her mid twenties - is a mother herself.  His two younger kids have grown as well from childhood to adulthood.  

Three families from three different communities bonded by a common loss.  And by a common trait.  A trait that binds not just the families of Antoinette Duger, Thomas Glasser and Thomas Gorman together but one that seems to bind all of them together.  Good people upon whom a horrible set of circumstances was foisted.  A set of circumstances that perhaps could have served as a basis for all of them to throw up their hands in despair and choose not to go on.  But, far more often than not, it did just the opposite.  It galvanized them.  It steeled them with a purpose and a determination that always seems inspiring and on many occasions seems almost too incredible to comprehend. 

The Salt of the Earth indeed.  Then.  Now.  Always.  And it is for them and all that they do - as much as for their loved ones and all that they did - that we must always remember that horrific day.  They are we can never forget.  They cannot and joining them in their remembrance is the very least we can do. 

That and raise a glass in their honor....




RoseMarie DiMatteo said...

Hey Adam,

Thanks so much for your very eloquent and kind words about my late aunt Antoinette (lovingly referred to as Zizi Ann by my brother and I).

We went to the memorial on Saturday to see it at night and it was a touching experience. I don't know if you've had a chance to get there yet but I highly recommend a visit in order to truly grasp the emotions of that day. While we were fortunate enough to be able to have a funeral in NJ, there is nothing like being at the site.

Do you by any chance write for a living? It's very refreshing to come across well-written passages on the internet, as I'm sure you know.

Hope to talk to you soon.

RoseMarie DiMatteo

Adam Kenny said...


Thank you for your incredibly kind words. "Sorry" does not come close to covering it - the loss that your family and too many other families suffered on September 11, 2001.

If what I wrote helped at all - even for a moment - to stanch the flow of pain then it has done a bit of good.

I earn my living as a lawyer. Writing is an exercise in sanity maintenance.

All the best and thank you again for the kind words.